Saturday, July 25, 2009


I have been following Ulysses for some time. It is an editor for the Mac that was an inspiration for Scrivener. It still shares some fundamental features with Scrivener. Both Ulysses and Scrivener favor something they call "non-linear writing"—a trendy new name for something that has always been part of all creative writing.

I was more than just surprised when I visited the newly-designed Website of the developers recently. They now call themselves "The Soulmen," and no longer "The Blue Technology Group." I very much dislike the new theme, but you should remember I am old and use a PC. Still, this kind of Germanic "hip" or "cool" is lost on me (and I would suppose most people who would be interested in their product won't appreciate it either).

Ulysses in its second incarnation is billed as "the semantic editor" and is available in two versions: Ulysses 2 and Ulysses Core. The latter promises not just semantic editing but "focused semantic text editing." It's a "stripped-down version of Ulysses 2.0; it's built on the same foundation, but more geared towards casual writers and those on tighter budgets." Why this allows "focused semantic text editing" remains a little unclear. Ulysses is called the semantic editor because it "borrows concepts from Setext and LaTeX. It truly separates content from presentation, written input from printed output. You’ll not assign font-weights and colors to emphasize words or mark introductory paragraphs; you’ll define “headlines” and “comments” and structure and meaning." I guess "stripped down" is a synonym for "focused" here.

Let me be sure, I have nothing against Ulysses. It's an interesting program, and I would be glad, if something like that were available for Windows. It's just the packaging ... It may be that they are the "Leader of the Pack," and it may also be true that "since its original release in 2003, Ulysses’ interface and feature-set have quickly become the blueprint for a whole plethora of similar products on Mac OS X." But it is definitely false that "it has literally sparked a creative writing revolution on platform [sic], forever redefining the way writers will work with their texts. It all started here, and we’re *so* not finished yet." Take that, you "Scriveners!"

I am "so" not "into" that!

In any case, I did not want to write about Ulysses, but about Stapler, their new "Single-Document-Multi-Notes-To-Do-List."

As they put it, "Stapler is a small application which blends certain aspects of classic notepads, outliners and check lists. You can think of it as a foldable notepad. Or a multi-document to-do list. - Or a foldable multi-document single-file to-do list slash next-generation notepad on steroids." Or: "Take it. Stack it. Move it. Fold it. There, you have it."

I am tempted to point out that I prefer my applications without steroids, but I won't ... (just mentioned the temptation, didn't "point out")

In any case, it reminds me of CintaNotes and Quotepad for the PC, which seem to do pretty much everything that Stapler does, but also allow you to save the clipboard quickly. The only advantage, if it is an advantage, is that Stapler saves rtf files, while CintaNotes and QuotePlus are restricted to text files. On the other hand, Stapler costs €7.99.


Anonymous said...


I too have my skepticism about "semantic" editors. I don't see a major difference, at least in terms of composition, between using two %% characters in the text to denote a headline and using styles.

However, I do like the idea of a plain text writing environment, which is why I frequently turn to NoteTab, especially when writing shorter pieces. Ulysses could be useful in that regard.

MK said...

I agree completely. I also use Notetab (and ConnectedText) for shorter pieces. some of these might later find their way into longer ones.

I would like an editor more like Ulysses for Windows.

Chris said...

yWriter is a similar app for windows. Don't have a URL handy, but a google search should turn it up. And it's free!